Healthy Beginnings

Friends with benefits: Owning a pet can help combat depression and stress

Pets like Archibald the dog can help relieve holiday stress.

Social support is essential for our overall wellbeing, but are people the only source for this? Or could a pet possibly fulfill social needs, adding to your happiness and emotional and physical health?

Studies are proving what we already knew — the answer is yes!

As someone with almost 8 years of experience in animal welfare, and a lifetime of being around and caring for pets, I can easily say pets enhance my life on so many levels.

From the unconditional love no matter what stressful situation is upon me, to the reminder that physical exercise is needed, to simple cuddles on the couch — there is no doubt that pets bring a sense of fulfillment to my life, the lives of those around me and even each other.

Studies show pet owners exhibit greater self-esteem, are more physically fit, are less lonely, more conscientious, more socially outgoing and live an overall healthier lifestyle. They also show that, interestingly enough, pet owners say their pets provide them as much support as their human family!

Bugsy is among many cats up for adoption at the Nevada Humane Society.

Even more detail tells us that pets provide a greater sense of belongingness (think about how happy you are to come home to that wagging tail), existence (we are more aware of our surroundings with pets in our lives), control (how many times have you had to curb your liquid intake because you had to be able to drive home and care for your fur-kids?) and self-esteem.

Think about it. Pet owners are less likely to be depressed because of that unconditional love and support. If you don’t have a big human social circle, pets still allow you to go out and have fun — with them! And let’s be honest. I know I’m not the only one who has full on conversations with my four-legged family.

The other big piece to the benefits of having pets is an overall reduction of stress. Yes, we all still encounter tough times, but if you had a bad day at work, or fought with your significant other, how often do you turn to your pets?

That tail wagging, butt-shaking, goofy smile your dog gives you upon coming home always makes you smile. That fight that brought you down seems a little less when your cat curls up in your lap and purrs, giving you that calming presence you need to get through things.

At Nevada Humane Society, we have office cats — and while sometimes their assistance at sending incomplete emails or hanging up the phone on an important donor isn’t appreciated, they always reduce stress levels.

Kimberly Wade lives with her husband Brandon, 3 cats (one pictured) and 3 dogs.

They remind us of our lifesaving mission and that the bigger picture is usually more important than the little things. Honestly, my two office cats, Charlie Brown and Peppermint Pati, have been with me for 6 years and I can’t imagine them not being there.

So whether you’re currently experiencing holiday stress, or maybe you’re looking forward to that New Year’s resolution of getting healthy, having pets in your life will help.

So come on down to Nevada Humane Society (two locations — 2825 Longley Lane in Reno and 549 Airport Road in Carson City) and meet some of our adoptable dogs and cats.

They’ll start by making your current life better, and then add to your future, to give you a brighter, happier, overall sense of wellbeing.

Kimberly Wade is Communications Director for the Nevada Humane Society. She has been with the organization for almost 8 years, but her passion for animals began as a child. Visit nevadahumanesociety.org to learn more.